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Cumberland Nature Reserve is a 300ha private reserve situated in the Table mountain area, just east of Pietermaritzburg. Besides a wonderful selection of savannah species, one can also pick up a variety of wetland, forest and rocky outcrop species. Spectacular scenery and pristine veld add to the appeal of this reserve. Birding is good with 227 species recorded to date, and it is quite possible to see 80+ species in a morning’s birding.

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Species

Peregrine Falcon, Broad-tailed Warbler, Shelley's Francolin, Crested Barbet, Red-throated Wryneck, Black Cuckooshrike, Lesser Honeyguide, Brubru, Cape Robin-Chat, Long-billed Crombec, Golden-breasted Bunting, Lazy Cisticola, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Cape Longclaw, Rufous-naped Lark, Black Saw-wing, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Striped Pipit, Cape Rock-Thrush, Swee Waxbill, Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Olive Bush-Shrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, Cape Batis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Green Twinspot, Red-faced Mousebird, Greater Honeyguide, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, and Acacia Pied Barbet

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Habitats

The reserve is characterised by open acacia sieberana savannah with large stretches of tall Hyparrhenia grassland. There are also extensive cliff faces and rocky outcrops. A range of woodland/forest species can be seen in the patches of forest, bush clumps and well developed woodland (in the valley). Just before entering the reserve, a dam and associated reedbeds have a variety of waterfowl and wetland species.

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Facilities

Trails: An extensive network of trails wander through the plateau savannahs and vary in length from short strolls to more strenuous hikes. Paths following the cliff edge command spectacular vistas over the Umgeni river Gorge. The network of trails leads one through all the major habitats and provide views of two lovely waterfalls. Up-to-date maps of trails and paths are available at the reserve.

Picnic sites: Set under the shade of charming flat-crown acacia sieberana trees, picnic sites offer braai facilities, picnic tables, toilets and drinking water. The picnic area is well spread out, allowing for a certain amount of privacy and providing good opportunities for armchair birding.

Campsite: The ablutions offer hot/cold showers, flushing toilets, hand basins and battery-operated lights. Washing-up and braai facilities are also provided. A charge per person is levied.

Self-Catering guest house accommodation comprising 4 bedrooms (sleeps 8) with communal kitchen, lounge and dining area is available. Catering can be arranged but prior notice is essential. A fully equipped Kranz Hut (Sleeps 2) is strategically situated for comfort and total privacy

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Birding

1. Immediately on entering the reserve look for Broad-tailed Warbler in the grassland, and Shelley's Francolin on the roadway, both of which show best in the very early morning.

2. The picnic site is a most rewarding area with Crested Barbet, Red-throated Wryneck, Black Cuckooshrike, Lesser Honeyguide, Brubru, Cape Robin-Chat, Long-billed Crombec and Golden-breasted Bunting regularly recorded. Lazy Cisticola are common in the tall grass bordering the stream.

3. The paths following the cliff edge are highly recommended and offer birders good opportunities for observing savanna, grassland, woodland and rocky outcrop species, which include Yellow-throated Longclaw and Cape Longclaw, Rufous-naped Lark, Black Saw-wing, Mocking Cliff-Chat, Striped Pipit, Cape Rock-Thrush, and Swee Waxbill. Peregrine Falcon is also seen along the gorge and cliff faces.

4. The forested gorge and stream, which extends from below the camping site waterfall to the Umgeni river, is best accessed from the Lolombazo trail. Regular species are Narina Trogon, Olive Woodpecker, Olive Bush-Shrike, Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, Cape Batis, Southern Double-collared Sunbird and Green Twinspot.

5. The trail from the camping site leading to the Horse Shoe and the Umgeni river, passes through acacia woodland, bush and grassland. Regular species are Red-faced Mousebird, Greater Honeyguide, Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike, Black-crowned Tchagra, and Acacia Pied Barbet.

6. Driving out of the reserve, stop off at the dam (on the right hand side) and look for wetland birds, including Orange-breasted Waxbill and Red-headed Quelea.

7. Heading back to Pietermaritzburg, keep a look out forSouthern Bald Ibis; they are regularly seen in and around the town on open patches of short grassland.

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General

Gates are open from sunrise to sunset. Special access may, however, be arranged. The entrance fee is R10 per person, payable at the ‘honesty box’. Visitors are asked to sign an indemnity form. Cumberland Nature Reserve is a Natural Heritage Site (#320) and is part of the Birds in Reserves Project (BIRP). Please would visitors fill in and submit BIRP forms for this reserve (BIRP forms can be arranged from Mark brown at 033-260 5661 during office hours). Please exclude sightings from the dam.

Booking of facilities or general inquires can be directed to the owners: John & Stella Behn, Phone/Fax: +27 33 390 3088, Cell: +27 82 337 1056 or +27 82 376 5600

Directions: From the N3 highway through Pietermaritzburg, take the Ohrtman Road offramp. Turn north-east and follow Ohrtman Road past Meadow Feeds and Epol Feeds. Cross the first intersection, and 2km from the highway, turn right onto the M30 towards Table mountain. After 0.8km turn left onto the M30 Table mountain road for 3.3km, and then right along the Table mountain road for 1.8kms. The Cumberland Nature Reserve turn-off onto road D406 is on your left. The reserve is 6.5km down this road. Please proceed slowly through the citrus orchards which are shortly before the reserve.

Derek Spencer 2007
Dale Forbes 2002.



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